FSACentral is proud to celebrate Disability Employment Awareness month by featuring some people with disabilities who are out in the workforce.
Name: Sarah Goldman
Hometown: St. Petersburg, Florida
Employer: State Representative Ben Diamond
Position: District Aide
Length of time at current job: Six weeks (formerly with State. Rep Kathleen Peters for two years)
What is the best advice or encouragement you’d give to a fellow self-advocate about accessing or keeping employment?
The best piece of advice I would give is to know what accommodations you need to be successful in your job. Don’t be afraid to let your employer know what you need. Some accommodations are mandated by law. Others can be provided through agencies like Vocational Rehab (Division of Vocational Rehabilitation) or the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). It can be intimidating to speak up—but you deserve to be on an equal playing field as anyone else in your company!
What’s the most important employment-related challenge you face as a person with a disability?
The biggest challenge I face is earning income while keeping my Medicaid waiver services that provide PCAs (personal care attendants) to help me get ready for work. Medicaid has an income cap that, once reached, results in losing coverage of services completely. I also cannot have a 401k or save for retirement, as it would exceed the $2000 asset limit.
How should we be advocating for better employment opportunities and practices in Florida?
Education! We need to show employers that people with disabilities are great candidates for jobs. We are hard-working, uniquely gifted, and JUST as capable as anyone else. The more we continue modeling hiring practices and eliminating the stigma of disability, the easier it will be for employers to see that hiring people with disabilities is (in the words of my boss), a "no-brainer!” We also need to be advocating for policy change at the state and federal level. Currently, we are working to create a program in Florida that allows people with disabilities to earn more AND keep their benefits. Legislators often have no idea this is even an issue. Another example why education is key!
Which agency was the most helpful to you in accessing and maintaining employment?
Vocational Rehab and APD have been wonderful! As stated earlier, APD funds a PCA to help me get ready for work. Vocational Rehab helped provide accommodations in my workplace as well as help modify a vehicle for me to be able to drive myself to work.
FSACentral would like to thank Sarah Goldman for her time and thoughtful answers to our Employment Spotlight Q & A.